It’s up to us, the fans, to improve the #Greatestleagueintheworld

Fans at Turners Cross Cork City FC
Turner’s Cross

By Aaron Cawley (@TheMoanyOne)

I recently read an article by Cork City fan David Kent on the Balls.ie website about the League of Ireland and how, in Europe clubs are punching above their weight when it comes to European competition.

As a League of Ireland fan it makes for interesting reading, simply because of how much other lesser nations pump in to their domestic leagues on a year basis. According to David’s article in Israel clubs can earn anything from €200,000-€1,000,000 per season depending on where they finish in the league. In Israel like!

Imagine that sort of money being pumped in to the League of Ireland on a yearly basis?

Imagine what half of that would allow, say Drogheda United or Wexford FC, to do to improve playing staff and improve things at their ground on a yearly basis?

As it stands if you win the league you’re only entitled to €110,000. Is it any wonder clubs are desperate for their chance to play European football on a yearly basis? For qualifying for Europe alone, a club gets a minimum of €220,000. That’s a serious amount of money for a struggling League of Ireland club to receive year on year.

Having the same clubs qualify year on year for Europe will open up a two tier league in the Premier Division. Teams like Dundalk, Shamrock Rovers and Cork City, who year on year will qualify for European football, will have more money to spend on players. They’ll be able to bring in the best players from around the league, as well as sign some up and coming players on loan from across the water.

After all, what League of Ireland player is going to say no to play in Europe year on year?

When the likes of Dundalk, Cork and Shamrock Rovers are enjoying glorious away days in Europe and enjoy the proceeds that come from it the rest of the league will begin to suffer.

It’s about time the fans of League of Ireland clubs stand up and make themselves known.
Let John Delaney and his cohorts in Abbottstown know that we as fans are not going to let the league continue to suffer and be abused the way it has been for the last number of years. Let them know that their actions have consequences.

Personally, I tried to get an interview sanctioned with John Delaney at various times during last year but kept getting told by the FAI that he was unavailable for interview. I found this to be very disheartening that the man in charge of the national league would not take time out of his schedule to answer three or four simple questions from a fan.

I know I’m not a respected journalist (some might say I’m not even a respected reporter for Extratime.ie) like Mark Mc Cadden at the Star newspaper, I’m far from it, but by sanctioning an interview it would show at least to me that he cares somewhat for the league.

Is there anything that can be done to get more attention for the league? Of course there is. The pundits on Soccer Republic talk about ways of doing it week in and week out.

Firstly, more league games should be shown on live TV. After all Soccer Republic have cameras at nearly all League of Ireland games every weekend so why can’t RTE show one live game a week? I also find it strange that League of Ireland clubs get no TV money when live matches are shown, that clubs cannot, or will not, attempt to negotiate a TV deal where all their home matches will be shown live every second or third weekend. What are they so afraid of?

Secondly, fans can help as well by showing John Delaney that he needs to sit up and take stock of the league. Protests can be carried out before or during games to show Delaney our displeasure at how he’s running the league. I am not calling for anything drastic here, a flag or two at a game especially the high profile ones.

Thirdly, we can also help clubs earn more money by attempting to bring new fans to matches. This is something I have attempted myself to do. Sadly for me it didn’t work. We need to do all we can to promote our league. We need to show people around the country that we have a national league too. While the players might not be as glamorous as some in the Premier League, there are still players worth following.

Finally, I think clubs can weigh in on this. They need to start promoting themselves better. They need to interact with the community in which they play in better and need to make match days as enjoyable as possible.
Sligo Rovers recently held a family day at the Showgrounds were children were allowed free in to the game. While the idea was a brilliant one I would be curious to see how many parents stayed on to enjoy the experience of a League of Ireland match. I would hazard to say very few.

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